Wise Men Say: Travelling army of Sunderland fans cheated yet again by team
In the wake of a heavy away defeat, you often hear calls for the travelling faithful to be refunded for their efforts.
When Sunderland were humiliated 8-0 away to Southampton in 2014, the players – led by Vito Mannone – reimbursed the fans for embarking on a 650-mile round trip only to see their side demolished.
But Tuesday’s meek cup exit to minnows Burnley will quietly slip under the radar. After all, it’s only two hours down the road and they only lost 2-0, right?
The reality is that the fans were cheated at Turf Moor just as much as they were at St Mary’s.
A total of 1,000 fans made their way across the moors to see their team second best in all departments.
Burnley is not exactly the back of beyond, although it may have felt like it, but those fans who also hold down a full-time job would have had to negotiate an early finish – at relatively short notice - and then be expected in their office or factory at normal time the next day, bleary eyed and sleep deprived.
For the Southampton game, many fans made a weekend of it on the South Coast regardless of the result. Conversely, there is little to see in Burnley, especially on a cold, damp Tuesday night.
This unconditional support is often taken for granted by those around the club. Worse still is the portrayal of the fans in the national media.
Reports of Saturday’s defeat to Stoke City were peppered with smart-alec references to the fans leaving before the end.
With this team, with these players, who would blame them?
The fans are not guaranteed success. Sunderland supporters know that more than most. But there’s an expectation of at least the bare minimum of effort.
And despite the team serving up performances like they did against Stoke and Burnley, they have the sixth highest average attendance in the Premier League. That’s quite often forgotten.
Against Stoke, Sunderland stopped short of rolling out the red carpet for their opponents. Mannone seemed intent on sitting down before a shot had come in, giving Marko Arnautovic the largest target to strike at.
Donald Love was more like Eoin McLove, the Daniel O’Donnell-type character from Father Ted, not a Premier League defender.
You would have thought they would fare better against a weakened Burnley team, but sadly not.
Their failure to beat relegation rivals in three meetings this season is the largest indicator yet that their Premier League days are numbered.
Sean Dyche is in some quarters hailed as being some kind of footballing genius, but his squad is hardly brimming with talent. His teams tend to overreach early, start well, yet fade dramatically by spring.
At least Sunderland have laid their relegation credentials out for all to see nice and early, so that when the inevitable does happen, the fans might be used to the idea.